Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some Days Off End Up With a Tikka and a Headache

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 9:20 PM

The author and his family at a Dasara party on Yom Kippur?
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  • The author and his family at a Dasara party on Yom Kippur?

Since this blog is all about cultural mash-ups, I decided to contribute my own experiences with Boise's burgeoning global culture. I want to talk about Monday, but first I need to go back a few years, to a long weekend in the West Bank.

I spent about 48 hours at a buddy's Muslim wedding in the West Bank in Palestine a few years ago. I went to the wedding with my girlfriend (who is now my wife), but I didn't see her for nearly the entire time. She was with the bridal party and I was with the dudes. I would catch a glimpse of her riding in an old Mercedes down the street to the beautician, or spy on her in the kitchen where the meat from some 30 lambs lay piled on a tarp in the corner. She was always smiling, but I knew she had no idea what people were saying to her.

Meanwhile, as she learned to dance with a candle on her head and was transformed into an Arab bridesmaid, I participated in some interesting rituals of my own. The groomsmen attacked the groom while he showered before the wedding, slapping him around as a threat against being unfaithful. And there was lots of driving around the hills in big, high speed caravans, while he asked the bride's father for her hand and made deals with the butcher and the baker, etc.

The wedding party was phenomenal. The entire village came. It was outside in the street and a band sang great Arabic love songs (and one about bombing Tel Aviv, according to one of my friends). I got a little over-excited with the fireworks and sprayed a group of old men (during the Tel Aviv song, I think) but no one got hurt. Anyway, that was Friday evening. After the party ended, we got in a cab and headed in the dark to Jerusalem.

She was dressed in a beautiful Palestinian galabeya. I looked like some crazed ex-pat. At the checkpoint into Jerusalem, we produced our U.S. passports to extra scrutiny from the Israeli soldiers. But they let us through, and we showed up for Friday night Sabbath dinner with some other friends in our full Arab regalia. Talk about crazy cultural mash-ups, but such is life in the Middle East for anyone who is paying attention.

But back to my Monday in Boise.

It was Yom Kippur, a Jewish fast day and one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar. We fasted, mostly, and spent a good part of the day at Temple Ahavath Beth Israel.

During his sermon, Rabbi Dan Fink quoted a Bhutanese scholar named Karma Ura, who told Eric Weiner in his book, The Geography of Bliss, "There is no such thing as personal happiness. Happiness is 100 percent relational." Karma Ura went on to assert that happiness is not a noun or a verb, but a conjunction. Connective tissue.

I agree with the guy, by the way, if it matters. But the important thing is we were trying to eke out a little time to see our Bhutanese friends, who were in town from Boardman, Ore., where they are working. The Hindu festival of Dasara also falls this week, a celebration of the god Rama and a huge fesitval in Nepal. (The Bhutanese people in Boise are ethnic Nepalis and came here from refugee camps in Nepal. I like this guy's take on the festival.)

The apartment where our friends were staying was packed with people. A loud Napali-wood martial arts comedy played on the TV. We visited a bit, and then Dandu, who is actually our newest Grip blogger, Deepesh, and his mother, took us into the back room and dropped flower petals on our heads and applied Tikka, a red-dyed sticky rice, to our foreheads.

By the way, it was almost 5 p.m. I had not had coffee, nor any bites of food all day long. So I think I saw Elvis maybe, while this was going on.

Then we headed to a Yom Kippur North End lawn party break fast and I almost had the nerve to keep my Tikka on throughout the party, but was getting too many strange looks. It wasn't quite as extreme as the West Bank to Jerusalem saga, which became a great teachable moment. But for Boise, it was not a half-bad Monday.

And sorry, Rabbi Dan, none of the Bhutanese guys had ever heard of your Karma Ura.

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